This post was last updated on 1/5/2016. While I wrote this post to be helpful and give readers and idea of things to do in NYC with teenagers based on my personal experience with my then 16-year old daughter, it does include affiliate links. This means if you purchase a CityPASS I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no cost to you. Thank you for your support of The Traveling Praters and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. You’ll find my email address in the sidebar or on my About Me page!
There’s a reason New York City is called the Big Apple. It’s HUGE! When it comes to planning a visit, if you want to see even a tiny fraction of what the city offers, you should count on some very busy, very full days.
I’ve only been to New York City three times so I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I did try to make the most of those experiences, fitting in as much sightseeing as I could. And while I’m typically not the type of person to over schedule on vacations and getaways, New York City is one place where I will make an exception. If you’re planning a trip, or thinking about visiting NYC with teens, you should find this post helpful.
How to get the most out of my Sample Three Day New York City Itinerary with CityPASS
1. As you view this sample itinerary, keep your fellow travel partners in mind. While this itinerary can be tweaked to best fit your situation, I was traveling to New York City with my daughter so I planned it specifically to experience with teens.
2. Feel free to omit, add, substitute or rearrange this plan so it works best for you. Remember, this is just a guide, it will work better if you tweak it to fit your schedule and your family.
3. Purchase a CityPASS for each member of your party to save time and money. A New York City CityPASS can save you 46% off the normal everyday purchase price of some of New York’s most popular attractions.
Each CityPASS contains actual admission tickets to a New York’s top six attractions. At many sights, CityPASS provides VIP access, allowing travelers to bypass an attraction’s main entrance ticket line for the following attractions:
- Empire State Building Observatory
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Guggenheim Museum OR Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air or Space Museum
Day One in NYC
(Tip: Our first day in NYC began by hopping on an early morning train in New Jersey. Staying outside of the city could be a great alternative to paying high lodging prices within New York City- especially if you can bunk with friends or relatives who live in the area. Just make sure that you factor in how much money you’ll pay for transportation costs to get around each day.)
Ride the subway to the Metro Station at Times Square/42nd St.
This is a great place to begin your exploration of the city because it allows you to get a quick glimpse of Times Square. Though it’s most impressive at night, it’s neat to see during the day so you can compare the two scenes.
From the subway, we walked a few short blocks to the New York City Public Library. We couldn’t resist taking pictures with the lions, Patience and Fortitude that flank the front steps. Be patient, it appears that it’s a pretty popular spot for photographers. While we would have loved to have explored the library, it was actually closed because our visit coincided with a holiday.
From the library, we headed north on 5th Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Fifth Avenue is a shopper’s paradise. You’ll find stores for the kids like Build-a-Bear and the American Girl Store, souvenir shops and the famous Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store.
If you have time this would be a great time to visit nearby Rockefeller Center.
From the cathedral, we backtracked a few blocks because my daughter and I really wanted to catch the subway at Grand Central Station. The building is beautiful and not to be missed.
We took the subway to Union Square to meet for a pre-reserved tour with a Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours. The tour was amazing and I highly recommend that you check it out. Not only is it very entertaining, the tour also allows you to rest your feet on a comfortable bus and eat at two of Brooklyn’s best-known pizzerias. Plus, the tour guide (we had Tony) is a hoot! Highly recommended.
We had some time to spare before our tour began so we decided to pop into Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man and get our daily chocolate fix. The restaurant is the coolest space and they offer FREE chocolate samples.
My daughter was on a mission to step foot in every single Forever 21 in the city. Lucky for her, there just happened to be one in Union Square.
A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza tour took us to Brooklyn where we were treated to a beautiful view of Manhattan, learned some great movie trivia, ate some delicious pizza and stopped at Coney Island, America’s oldest amusement park. The bus dropped us off where we began in Union Square so we hopped back on the subway and headed south to the Financial District.
*To save steps, you could opt to visit the 9-11 Memorial when stopping at Battery Park to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
We toured St. Paul’s Chapel, Manhattan’s oldest building in continuous use and used as a command center for volunteers after the 9-11 attack. It’s located across the street from the site of where the World Trade Towers once stood. I visit this small chapel each time I visit the city.
Warning: I can’t imagine anyone would visit this site and not tear up. It’s a good idea to pack some tissues so you have them handy.
If you think ahead, you can reserve advance tickets to the 9-11 Memorial, tickets to the memorial are free but a $2 service fee is charged and they happily accept donations. If you opt to tour the museum, you can use the New York CityPASS to save money and time. If you plan to visit the museum Tuesday evening from 5 – 7 p.m., admission is free with a ticket. You can pick up a ticket at the window, tickets are limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. If you don’t have time to visit the museum, by all means, visit the memorial and save the museum for another time.
If you prefer to skip the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, your CityPASS will grant you access to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
At this point, you may want to call it a day or you can hop on the subway and head to the Chelsea Market in Chelsea. This is the perfect place to grab a souvenir or a bite to eat. We especially enjoyed nosing through Artists & Fleas before calling it a day.
If you decide not to eat at the market, there is a Sichuan Chinese restaurant, Legends, located several blocks from the subway that offers HUGE portions of delicious food. Service was a bit slow, but worth the wait, if you aren’t too tired. I suggest the Pumpkin Soup to start, followed by the Beef and Broccoli. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
Day Two in NYC
A visit to the Empire State Building is a great way to start the day. The lines are shorter and it’s definitely less crowded. Plus, with CityPASS, you can bypass the lines to purchase your ticket, get a free audio guide and can purchase a map to help you identify what you’ll see from the top of the observation deck.
From there we headed to the American Museum of Natural History (your CityPASS admission also includes a show at the planetarium) just so my daughter could see Dum Dum from the Night at the Museum. Clearly, this Easter Island Statue is a favorite tourist draw. We were surprised to see a line of people waiting to hug the large stone statue and take photos and selfies with the popular attraction.
We cut through Central Park to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were able to see the Ramble, the Belvedere Castle and the Obelisk. I had originally planned to spend a lot more time in Central Park, but it started to rain. Make sure you pack a small umbrella so you’ll be prepared.
You could easily spend the entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I visited with my son in 2011, we spent nearly five hours in the galleries and still didn’t feel like we’d made a dent in viewing all the museum has to offer. Non-art lovers should still appreciate the impressive Egyptian wing and Armor Court.
Serendipity 3 is a unique eatery that your teen will love. You must try the Frozen Hot Chocolate but heed my warning, it’s way too big to consume by yourself. Serendipity offers great atmosphere, great service and amazing desserts. This stop was definitely a favorite for my daughter and I.
If you didn’t consume enough sugar at Serendipity, you’ll pass Dylan’s Candy Bar on the way to the subway. Even if you plan not to eat or shop, it’s a fun store to pop in and check out.
Now is the perfect time to check into your New York hotel and put your feet up. Don’t get too comfortable though, because you won’t want to miss the chance to see Times Square at night.
My daughter loved all of Times Square and can’t wait for another NYC mother/daughter getaway. Visiting Times Square with Teens can be a lot of fun. Make sure you don’t miss Elvis in M & M World (if you’re a fan of the chocolate candies), Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum or take in a Broadway Play. Take some small bills to pose with one of the characters that are plentiful in Times Square but keep in mind that they aren’t happy with a dollar or two. They seem to be more interested in $4 or $5 for their time. My daughter and I loved Toys R Us, and were sad to hear of the store’s recent closing.
Day Three in NYC
You may have been up late exploring Times Square, but don’t miss your opportunity to see the view from the Top of the Rock at sunrise. Though entrance to the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center is included in your CityPASS, if you want to see the view at sunrise or sunset, it will cost you a bit more, but well worth the price.
If you decide to pass on the Top of the Rock and prefer to start your day indoors, you can head to the Guggenheim Museum, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most known structures.
From there, you can wrap up your visit to NYC with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with your CityPASS or you can take a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise of the New York harbor.
You could easily spend an entire day exploring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so if you have the time to extend your trip, I’d advise doing so. Viewing the Statue of Liberty for the first time is breathtaking and if you have family members that entered the US through New York City, you can find record of their journey through Ellis Island. Make sure you’re armed with their full name and birthdate to access their records.
A Hotel Recommendation in NYC
If you’re looking for a hip and trendy lodging in New York City, check out the Yotel. I promise teenagers will LOVE it!
If you’re looking for more things to do in New York City with teens, be sure to check out this list of 35 things to do in New York City with teens.
Do you want to learn how to save money in New York City? Check out the CityPASS. This discount booklet is also available for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California and Toronto, saving you time and money.
Have you been to NYC? What would you add to my itinerary?
More Travel Tips with Teens:
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